IAEA Report on Iran –

The latest and much-anticipated IAEA report on Iran was distributed to members of the Board of Governors in Vienna — and almost immediately leaked to the press.

What does it say?

It can be read in full here: here.

It starts right out with this statement, rebuffing Iran’s efforts to negotiate or wheedle an arrangement [it’s been called “buying time”] to get a better deal, rather than a new [this would be the 7th] round of sanctions either through the UN Security Council, or enacted unilaterally by those states who feel the strongest about this matter:
“The Security Council has affirmed that the steps required by the Board of Governors in its resolutions are binding on Iran. The relevant provisions of the aforementioned Security Council resolutions were adopted under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter, and are mandatory, in accordance with the terms of those resolutions”.

Here’s the immediate diplomatic deal — all of this is spelled right up front in the IAEA report”
“In a letter dated 26 May 2011, H.E. Dr Fereydoun Abbasi, Vice President of Iran and Head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI), informed the Director General that Iran would be prepared to receive relevant questions from the Agency on its nuclear activities after a declaration by the Agency that the work plan (INFCIRC/711) had been fully implemented and that the Agency would thereafter implement safeguards in Iran in a routine manner. In his reply of 3 June 2011, the Director General
informed Dr Abbasi that the Agency was neither in a position to make such a declaration, nor to conduct safeguards in Iran in a routine manner, in light of concerns about the existence in Iran of possible military dimensions to Iran’s nuclear programme. On 19 September 2011, the Director General met Dr Abbasi in Vienna, and discussed issues related to the implementation of Iran’s Safeguards Agreement and other relevant obligations. In a letter dated 30 September 2011, the Agency reiterated its invitation to Iran to reengage with the Agency on the outstanding issues related to possible military dimensions to Iran’s nuclear programme and the actions required of Iran to resolve those issues. In a letter dated 30 October 2011, Dr Abbasi referred to his previous discussions with the Director General and expressed the will of Iran ‘to remove ambiguities, if any‘, suggesting that the Deputy Director General for Safeguards (DDG-SG), should visit Iran for discussions. In his reply, dated 2 November 2011, the Director General indicated his preparedness to send the DDG-SG to ‘discuss the issues identified’ in his forthcoming report to the Board“…

The IAEA has expressed somewhat more concern than before — but they’re not hysterical with worry. They gave greater details about some of the allegations contained in earlier IAEA reports on Iran’s nuclear program up to 2003 [when the U.S. invaded neighboring Iraq], at which point Iran was believed to have largely stopped it. But, Iran has apparently maintained some kind of program to continue to monitor the results of its earlier research.

The report says “Since 2002, the Agency has become increasingly concerned about the possible existence in Iran of undisclosed nuclear related activities involving military related organizations, including activities related to the development of a nuclear payload for a missile, about which the Agency has regularly received new information”.

It also says that “While the Agency continues to verify the non-diversion of declared nuclear material at the nuclear facilities and LOFs [locations outside facilities where nuclear material is customarily used + a footnote tells us that “All of the LOFs are situated within hospitals”.] declared by Iran under its Safeguards Agreement, as Iran is not providing the necessary cooperation, including by not implementing its Additional Protocol, the Agency is unable to provide credible assurance about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran, and therefore to conclude that all nuclear material in Iran is in peaceful activities. The Agency has serious concerns regarding possible military dimensions to Iran’s nuclear programme. After assessing carefully and critically the extensive information available to it, the Agency finds the information to be, overall, credible. The information indicates that Iran has carried out activities relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device. The information also indicates that prior to the end of 2003, these activities took place under a structured programme, and that some activities may still be ongoing. Given the concerns identified above, Iran is requested to engage substantively with the Agency
without delay for the purpose of providing clarifications regarding possible military dimensions to Iran’s nuclear programme as identified in the Annex to this report.

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The IAEA report complains that “The Agency is still awaiting a substantive response from Iran to Agency requests for further
information in relation to announcements made by Iran concerning the construction of ten new uranium enrichment facilities, the sites for five of which, according to Iran, have been decided, and the construction of one of which was to have begun by the end of the last Iranian year (20 March 2011) or the start of this Iranian year. In August 2011, Dr Abbasi was reported as having said that Iran did not need to build new enrichment facilities during the next two years.25 Iran has not provided information, as requested by the Agency in its letter of 18 August 2010, in connection with its announcement on 7 February 2010 that it possessed laser enrichment technology”.

It also complains that “Contrary to the relevant resolutions of the Board of Governors and the Security Council, Iran has not
suspended work on all heavy water related projects, including the construction of the heavy water moderated research reactor, the Iran Nuclear Research Reactor (IR-40 Reactor), which is subject to Agency safeguards”.

[A footnote tell us that: “The United Nations Security Council has adopted the following resolutions on Iran: 1696 (2006); 1737 (2006); 1747 (2007); 1803 (2008); 1835 (2008); and 1929 (2010)”.]

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An important annex discusses “Possible Military Dimensions to Iran’s Nuclear Program” … which we will look at in another post.

U.S. has new intelligence estimate — Iran stopped trying for nukes in 2003

OK, so now we know — tough U.S. action stopped Iran from trying to develop nukes in 2003. Why didn’t we know about this earlier? What were all those hair-raising stories about the U.S. and/or Israel making imminent preparations to attack Iran in order to “stop World War III”???

Why would Iran have done this in 2003?  A comment posted on Helena Cobban’s Just World News blog reminds us that this would have been just after the U.S. invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein — who gave the very strong impression that he had pursued a nuclear weapons program, which freaked out the Iranians who had been on the receiving end of Saddam’s crusade against them.  The commentator says that the Iranians were preparing to try to match Saddam in the nuclear arena, but that when he was ousted this was no longer necessary — so the Iranians could drop their nuclear pursuits in peace.

The NYTimes reports that “a National Intelligence Estimate that represents the consensus view of all 16 American spy agencies, states that Tehran is likely keeping its options open with respect to building a weapon, but that intelligence agencies ‘do not know whether it currently intends to develop nuclear weapons’. Iran is continuing to produce enriched uranium, a program that the Tehran government has said is designed for civilian purposes. The new estimate says that enrichment program could still provide Iran with enough raw material to produce a nuclear weapon sometime by the middle of next decade, a timetable essentially unchanged from previous estimates. But the new estimate declares with ‘high confidence’ that a military-run Iranian program intended to transform that raw material into a nuclear weapon has been shut down since 2003, and also says with high confidence that the halt ‘was directed primarily in response to increasing international scrutiny and pressure’. The estimate does not say when American intelligence agencies learned that the weapons program had been halted, but a statement issued by Donald Kerr, the principal director of national intelligence, said the document was being made public ‘since our understanding of Iran’s capabilities has changed’. Rather than painting Iran as a rogue, irrational nation determined to join the club of nations with the bomb, the estimate states Iran’s ‘decisions are guided by a cost-benefit approach rather than a rush to a weapon irrespective of the political, economic and military costs’ “… The NYTimes report is published here.

U.S. President Bush, who said on 17 October that Iran’s nuclear program could lead the world into World War III, said today that “he only learned of the new intelligence assessment last week”, the AP reported today, “But he portrayed it as valuable ammunition against Tehran, not as a reason to lessen diplomatic pressure. ‘To me, the NIE (National Intelligence Estimate) provides an opportunity for us to rally the international community — to continue to rally the community — to pressure the Iranian regime to suspend its program’, the president said. ‘What’s to say they couldn’t start another covert nuclear weapons program?’ ”
here.

Iran graciously welcomed the report. Reuters reported that Iran’s Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki told state radio: “It’s natural that we welcome it when those countries who in the past have questions and ambiguities about this case … now amend their views realistically … The condition of Iran’s peaceful nuclear activities is becoming clear to the world.” This Reuters report can be seen here.

And, in a statement issued in Vienna while he was travelling in South America, the IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei indicated that he “received with great interest the new U.S. National Intelligence Estimate about Iran´s nuclear program which concludes that there has been no on-going nuclear weapons program in Iran since the fall of 2003. He notes in particular that the Estimate tallies with the Agency´s consistent statements over the last few years that, although Iran still needs to clarify some important aspects of its past and present nuclear activities, the Agency has no concrete evidence of an ongoing nuclear weapons program or undeclared nuclear facilities in Iran. The Director General believes that this new assessment by the U.S. should help to defuse the current crisis. At the same time, it should prompt Iran to work actively with the IAEA to clarify specific aspects of its past and present nuclear program as outlined in the work plan and through the implementation of the additional protocol. This would allow the Agency to provide the required assurances regarding the nature of the program. While calling on Iran to accelerate its cooperation with the Agency, in view of the new U.S. Estimate, the Director General urges all parties concerned to enter without delay into negotiations. Such negotiations are needed to build confidence about the future direction of Iran´s nuclear program – concern about which has been repeatedly expressed by the Security Council. They are also needed to bring about a comprehensive and durable solution that would normalise the relationship between Iran and the international community”. Mohamed ElBaradei’s statement is available on the website of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) here.

Shahram Chubin: arrest of Iran's former nuclear negotiator is an "outrageous act" intended "to inhibit discussion"

Iran’s former nuclear negotiator Seyed Hossein Mousavian’s detention Monday evening was most probably intended “to inhibit any discussion of the nuclear issue” inside Iran, said Dr. Shahram Chubin of the Geneva Center for Security Policy.

“It is an outrageous act to take a loyal supporter of the Islamic Republic who disagrees with a position, and put him in jail”, Dr. Chubin added in an interview Thursday with Middle East Times.   “Mousavian is not even a reformer –he is a loyalist”.

Chubin noted that “This just gives a good idea of what is going on inside Iran”.

Mousavian’s participation in a panel discussion on Proliferation Challenges and Security in the Middle East at the Geneva think tank on 21 March was virtually his last public appearance. On the same trip abroad, but just prior to his Geneva appearance, Mousavian had also visited the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, and he was headed for discussions in Brussels before returning home. However, Mousavian certainly already felt himself to be under pressure at the time, one of the participants in the Geneva meeting noted.

Another participant in the Geneva discussion was Serguei Batsonov, a former Russian Ambassador for Disarmament in Geneva, who now works with Pugwash. Contacted by phone in Vienna, where he is attending a meeting preparing for the next review of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), Mr. Batsonov said “We all know very little, but what I can say is that it would be very easy now to jump into erroneous judgement.  The wider political picture must be taken into view”. He cautioned that “Otherwise, it would be so easy to make the situation worse”.
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